Customs and Rituals

Do Hindus pray in any particular language?

Sanskrit remains the official sacred language of Hindu liturgical ritual. Ancestor of a number of modern Indian languages, Sanskrit is also linguistically connected with classical languages such as Latin and Greek and with modern languages such as Persian and a host of European tongues. Many Hindus still learn a little Sanskrit, not through formal language instruction, but through the use of ritual phrases and prayers. During temple rituals the priests typically recite sometimes lengthy texts from the Vedas in a chant using four or five tones. When families offer puja at home, the prayer leader often recites a number of short standard prayers in Sanskrit. Devotional hymns and prayers in a number of regional Indian vernacular languages, such as Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Bengali, as well as in India’s “official” national language, Hindi, are standards in many ritual settings.


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